Ever since I peeped at Philip Johnson’s glass house in New Canan, I have wondered how really comfortable it was to live there. How would one do a glass house nowadays? What kind of site is required to justify the expanse of glass? How tall a glass wall would I have before thinking it’s too much?
The first thing to consider is where the glass wall should be gracing. While it is obvious that most glass houses would save the expanse of glass for the living areas, one might think that circulation areas such as stairwells are as conducive to having a glass surrounding. The view out from inside should dictate how much glass to dedicate to. Where the view is 360 degrees is where we find our glass houses.
The shape of the glass house. Is it always box? Thinking back the original glass houses- the conservatories- They took on the most elaborate shapes with curving roof lines, intricate roof shapes and patterns. The Crystal Palace had a barrel vault central space. How ingeniously done, Mr Paxton.
The modern glass houses however are mainly squarish and rectangular in shape. There is something quite poetic in the simplicity of glass cubes or rectangular boxes. The focus is then on the glass when the shape is “nothing to write home about”.
Before Philip Johnson’s Glass House, we also have the Barcelona Pavillion and the Farnsworth house by Mies van der Rohe. Both buildings explored the absence of walls – the first was about continuity of spaces while the second was more about non confinement of spirits.
Some glass houses add on roofs for practicality as well as for giving them a more homey image.
A curved roof cures it all. After all, curved roofs lend themselves to modern homes quite well especially when they are of one generous swoop.
The division of glass is where most efforts are concentrated as we can’t have too large a sheet of glass. Working with the curtain wall pattern is never more crucial.
The issue of privacy. One can compose the facade with a few solid blocked walls for private rooms such as bathrooms.
Any glass house worth its glass should have a view to kill for – otherwise having glass would have been a moot point. The view from inside should explain it all.
If only we could live in absolute transparency, forever forego subterfuge and embrace clarity…
Why ever not?